We get older and our senses start to erode. We don’t see as well, or hear as well. It just happens and there’s not much you can do about it. Right?

Some of it is medical. Some of this loss is not.

For example, presbycusis is a condition that can show up in your 40s. Past exposure to loud noises or changes in your blood supply (heart disease and diabetes can do it) may have damaged the sound-detecting cells in the inner ear. Higher-pitched voices become harder to hear, and distinguishing speech against background noise becomes difficult. Smoking can damage blood vessels in the ear and stopping smoking will help. Wearing earplugs when exposed to loud sounds also will help. Mowing the lawn and attending concerts counts. In fact, sound over 85 decibels for an extended period of time hurts. Normal speech is 65. Turn down that iPod to 50-75%.

Another approach to improving your hearing is less medical. Training your ears to single out individual sounds helps your brain recognize them more easily and can sharpen your hearing. When you are listening to a song, try focusing on each instrument. Practice focus.

The general approach to tuning your senses is to start with some sensory deprivation. Sitting in silence helps. It is hard enough to find silence, but go sit out there in the woods or on that empty beach and as quiet as it is, there are lots of soft sounds. Focus on that bird’s call, the sound of the waves or the little creek, the sound of the wind moving past you. Practice listening. In a quiet spot, can you identify all the sounds around you and the direction each comes from? Most people can detect more sounds coming from in front than from behind. If you spend an hour in a completely silent place, you will notice your hearing becomes more acute, because noise overstimulates the delicate nerves that register sound.

Just relaxing your jaw (which happens when you smile) can improve your ability to hear faint sounds. That is because tiny muscles in your jaw can disrupt the action of your eardrums and eustachian tubes. Those tubes control inner ear pressure and are what make your ears feel blocked on an airplane.

And senses interact. Close your eyes. Most people hear more when their eyes are closed or when you can’t see well, like when you’re in the dark. Your eyes and brain doing the light waves into images work uses up a lot of brainpower. When you shut down vision, there are more resources to devote to the other senses.

Taste is about 75 percent smell. Clearing your nasal passages will enhance flavors. Breathe in warm, moist air before eating. Alternating foods with each bite keeps your palate sensitive making each mouthful distinct and interesting. Limit salt and sugar because the more you use, the more desensitized to these flavors you become.

If you abstain from salty or sugary foods for just one week, your sensitivity will return. Alcohol and smoking damages your taste buds, but they regenerate every 10 days. Give them a break, and your sense of taste should improve in a few weeks.

My mom had macular degeneration. I have the early stages of glaucoma. So, I tune in to any advice about saving my sense of sight. I wear lenses with 100% UV protection to block the blue-violet rays at the ultra violet end of
the spectrum. The more UV exposure, the higher the risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration.

I also try to take more breaks from prolonged staring. Working with a computer screen, staring at a TV and reading a book means you’re not blinking as frequently, and that dries out the delicate cells of your eye. Dryness is the main cause of blurry vision. Blink. Look away. Close your eyes. Use artificial tears eye drops. Blinking works like windshield wipers, clearing up the surface of the eye and encouraging tear production. I know it happens automatically, but in some situations you should try to do it “manually.”

New USDA research found that people with high intakes of the B vitamins riboflavin and thiamin had the least clouding of their eyes’ lenses, the most direct measure of cataract risk. Increase your intake with a daily multivitamin containing your quota of B1 (thiamin) and B2 (riboflavin).

I read positive and negative studies on supplements like lutein and beta-carotene helping to prevent macular degeneration, a disease that causes a blurred or blind spot in the middle of your field of vision. You can get those substances from food sources like carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and broccoli. If they can’t do any harm, I’m all for boosting them in my diet.

There are plenty of online sites that suggest ways to improve your senses. Here are some that I reviewed.

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